Physical Therapy: A Growing Profession

Oct 22

Seven in 10 Baby Boomers – adults ages 45 and older – remain active, according to a 2011 study by AARP. That generation has changed the way Americans look at aging and retirement, and physical therapy has helped by keeping boomers active for as long as possible.

U.S. News and World Report ranked physical therapy eighth in 2013, 2012 and 2009 among the 100 best jobs in terms of employment opportunity, salary, work-life balance, and job security. Physical therapy was among the 10 fastest-growing jobs in November 2012, according to Employment for physical therapists is forecast to grow 39 percent from 2012 to 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Yet despite this demand, it remains one of the most challenging careers to enter.

As with most jobs in the health profession, PTs must have an understanding of the sciences, particularly anatomy, biology, physics, physiology and other health sciences. Therefore, it is important to lay a foundation as early as possible, even starting with advanced science courses in high school.

Physical therapy education includes both classroom instruction and clinical experience.  In order to practice, all PTs must receive a graduate degree from an accredited program prior to taking the national licensing exam.  With one exception, all programs are doctorate of physical therapy degrees typically taking three years to complete.

The majority of physical therapy schools admit only 30 or so students each year from a pool of 200 to 600 applicants, so additional experience and exposure to the field are musts.  Job shadowing, internships and volunteering are great opportunities to build your resume.

Among the references in your graduate application should be a licensed physical therapist who can attest to the number of observation hours you have completed.  This also shows your dedication to pursuing a career.

Physical therapy is an active profession.  It is important for students interested in pursuing a physical therapy career to remain dedicated to overall health and wellness.  Sports, physical activity and these types of hobbies and extracurricular activities are enjoyable but also promote the active lifestyle that the profession of physical therapy encourages.  Physical therapists may be required to perform exercises, lift patients, create fitness or fall prevention programs on a daily basis.

The APTA’s centralized application system allows students interested in physical therapy to view school admission requirements. For more information, visit